*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
Morning. On to Denver and it'll be a great test for us going out there. They've got a terrific defense, very good offensively, great quarterback, Hall of Fame quarterback, a lot of weapons on the outside, sneaky tight end, so it'll be a great opportunity for us and great test.
Q: When you look at their defense what do you think makes them so successful?
A: They're aggressive. They play tight coverage, bump and run, they have got not just two good rushers, they have four rushers – the guys inside can rush, the two guys on the outside are obviously special rushers. The two linebackers can run. They're giving up 18% third downs. They can be suffocating.
Q: What does Teddy Bridgewater need to do in what is perhaps his toughest test of his young career with the atmosphere and noise?
A: It always helps the crowd noise and all of those factors if we move the ball effectively. One of the things he's done very well is be able to make some plays with his legs, so I think that will probably be important this week, make sure that we take good care of the football and then we'll have some opportunities; we have to hit them. Third downs will be big.
Q: How has Peyton Manning's game evolved over the years especially in that transition from Indianapolis to Denver?
A: I guess when he was in Indy for so long, the system was always the same and he obviously had a great football team all of the time. In Denver, he's changed a little bit in some of the things they're doing, but to me he hasn't changed. He still looks like Peyton Manning, he still looks like the things they're still doing in the no-huddle. It might be a few different run plays than what they've had in the past. I think the cast around him is different obviously, but I don't know, he still looks the same to me, he really does.
Q: Is the public criticism of his arm strength kind of overstated because he does so much with his accuracy and brain?
A: It's hard for me to know about his arm strength or anything like that. All I know is that I saw him throw a 25-yard comeback with a 10-yard drop on a perfect throw on the sideline. I've seen him make plays down the field at the end of ballgames to Demaryius Thomas. But you're right, he's extremely accurate, he gets the ball out very quick and he sees an awful lot of things. There's probably not a blitz that we can devise or that he has not seen. There's probably not a coverage that we've run that he has not seen and I'm sure that he'll go back and he'll look at tapes of when we played him before just like I've gone back and looked at his tapes.
Q: Is there a dangerous element of trying to do too much to throw Peyton Manning off and getting away from what you guys do best?
A: If you make a mistake, he's going to find it. That's one of the big things. Sometimes you make a mistake in some other ballgames and you get away with it because the quarterback didn't see it or miss. He's not going to miss any. We're going to have to be on point with everything we do.
Q: Where does Peyton Manning stand up in terms of guys that are fun to go up against? Is it fun to challenge these high-caliber quarterbacks?
A: Are you asking if I'd rather have other quarterbacks? He's really tough, he's really, really tough. The Hall of Fame quarterbacks are always really tough, it doesn't matter who it is but he's extremely tough to go against, he's tough to beat, you've got to be on top of your game. He's a great competitor, so it's a big challenge.
Q: Have you seen Linval Joseph's great offseason carry over for you into the start of the season?
A: Yeah, he's doing good. And he does a lot of things that people don't realize. He makes a lot of tackles, but he also pushes the pocket good. He's done a good job on the centers this year. He's a very prideful guy, he's big and strong and when I see him do some of the things in practice, I'm like, "Man, this guy is a stud." He's strong and physical and he cares. He's a good team guy. He's one of those kind of guys you love to have here.
Q: Denver hasn't been able to run the ball really well while you have stopped the run well. Do you think it's important to not even give them a sniff of confidence early on?
A: It's important that we continue to stop the run, yes. And that's kind of how it is every week. I do think that Denver, and knowing this offense from going against them in the past, they want to run the football some if they can and probably more than some because it sets up a lot of other stuff for him. So if you don't allow them to do that, that's big for us.
Q: How do you keep the younger players from being in awe of going against Peyton Manning after watching him growing up and playing as him on Madden?
A: Yeah, I don't know much about Madden. I've never even seen it to be honest with you, but I understand your question. Yeah, it's a good question. It's more about focusing on the job that we have to do and the job that each one of these guys has to do. I do think there's a little bit of that when you have a young guy going against a guy like Peyton Manning for the first time in his career or even Adrian Peterson. Guys that are going up against Adrian are like, "Hey, this is Adrian Peterson here." The one thing that the players are always aware of at least, young guys are always aware of great players because they hear so much about them, they've seen them on tape, they've seen them winning playoff games and things like that. We'll just keep trying to keep them focused on what their job is.
Q: Is there stuff that you can pick up during his pre-snap cadence?
A: He changes up a lot. He changes a lot of things – he changes the hand signals, he changes the communication that they have. I try not to get our guys too involved with that because then they start listening, kind of what you're talking about, listening to calls, listening to plays and then they don't play. I think it's really hard to do – like last week, they're all no-huddle and I didn't allow our guys during the week at all to worry about things that were going on at the line of scrimmage because we've got to do what we do.
Q: Has Norv Turner been tweaking formations and game plans because of matchups or because he is trying to emphasize what your team does well on offense?
A: I think it's a little bit of both because you're always looking at matchups, but I think the more you get into the season, the more you find out about your team as you get going. He loves matchups, he loves looking at what we can do and then what kind of matchup we can get off of it. He loves that.
Q: Do you expect Xavier Rhodes to be practicing today? What's his protocol?
A: He's passed, he's good.
Q: What about Charles Johnson?
A: I don't know yet, I don't know if he'll be able to go yet. We'll see.
Q: With Charles Johnson getting off to a relatively slow start, is that more to do with how defenses are playing him or is there something that he is not quite doing?
A: I don't think it's so much the way defenses have played him. I think it's just the way defenses have played the progression of the routes as it's going on. I don't think it has anything to really do with Charles. I think he's played well. He probably had a little lull in the Detroit game, but other than that I think he's done good.
Q: Is Peyton Manning the prime example of where you don't want to show him anything too early defensively?
A: Sometimes. I think there's both give and take on that. I don't ever want to consider us a patient defense, but I think you have to pick your spots if that's the best thing to say.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It's another week preparing for Denver, we know that they're a tough team. Number one defense in the NFL right now, those guys are playing some great football. We know it's going to be a tough environment to go into. We just have to play well, focus in on meetings this week, be sharp in practice this week and go out and execute.
Q: You talk about getting the ball out quickly, is that more important against a defense this good?
A: Definitely and we know that this defense, they're playing some great football right now and everything starts up front with those guys. Those guys have, I believe, 11 sacks, which is first in the NFL right now. We're aware of that, we're going to do some things to try to slow those guys down, try to allow us to play fast.
Q: Sunday will be your 16th career start, where do you feel like you're at in your progression?
A: I think I'm making a ton of progress. There are some things that may go unnoticed, but I think the coaching staff just asking me to do some things, I feel like I've been doing a good job of doing those things. There's still room for improvement. Each day we come to work and there's something that we can work on. I know for me, I'm going to continue to just try to play fast, be decisive in my decision making and stay aggressive.
Q: What are some of those things that are going unnoticed that you've progressed in?
A: There's sometimes in the run game and things like that, whether it's making the right checks, getting us out of bad plays and getting us into the right plays. It comes with studying film, studying the game plan. Our coaching staff does a great job, especially Coach Tuner, do a great job of calling plays that we're comfortable running and giving us the opportunity to play fast.
Q: Has the success of the run game allowed you to manage the game more?
A: You can say that. I'm in a position right now where we have so many playmakers that if I hand the ball off, as you all saw this past Sunday, that we have an opportunity to score a touchdown. If we can complete a screen pass on the outside to a wide receiver, it has a chance to be a big play. I'm in a position where I have a ton of weapons at my disposal, I just have to make the best of it.
Q: Are you comfortable running play-action from under center?
A: Definitely. I actually did do a lot of it in college, yeah, did a ton of it in college. I'm totally comfortable with that.
Q: What have you seen from Matt Kalil this year compared to last year?
A: Matt [Kalil], he understands Coach Zimmer's mindset and Coach Zimmer's message. Coach Zimmer wants to be a tough, physical football team. Matt is doing that right now. I remember a play that we pitched to Adrian [Peterson] on Sunday, and Matt was out front, he got the third level to block the safety, that's what you love to see from those guys. He comes in, he works extremely hard, he doesn't say much, he's always positive. Those are the type of guys we want on this team.
Q: What have you seen on tape from Denver's edge rushers?
A: Those guys are fast and they get off the ball very fast. They do a great job of timing the snap counts. They're real sound and we know that that defense runs through those guys. Those guys play with a ton of confidence. We know it's going to be a challenge for us up front and even on the backend those guys are playing some great football, also. We're going to come out, practice today, we're just going to approach this game with the mindset that we have to go in, be physical and play fast.
Q: How has your communication with Joe Berger improved the last six weeks?
A: Joe [Berger], he's a guy who's just eager to do whatever he can do to help this team win. Whether it's playing guard, tackle, giving us a look in show team or starting for us at center right now. He's a guy that we appreciate around here. A guy who's played in a ton of football games, he has a lot of wisdom and knowledge and our communication is getting even better.
Q: What's your first Peyton Manning memory?
A: There's so many memories, I can't even think of it. Peyton [Manning] is a great guy, probably the best quarterback to play this game, great ambassador for this league.
Q: What did you look for when you watched Peyton Manning play?
A: He was always in command at the line of scrimmage, it was always like a chess match when you played Peyton Manning. He's always making checks, audibles at the line of scrimmage, getting himself in and out of the right plays. Protecting himself. He's a guy who plays extremely fast and he's been playing at a high level his entire career.
Q: Are you going to imitate any of his audibles or yell 'Omaha'?
A: No, not at all.
Q: Have you ever played in a place that had elevation like Denver?
A: No, I haven't. I'm no scientist or anything, so I don't want to look much into the altitude or anything like that. I'm just going to go out there and adjust as the game goes on.
Q: How much do you pay attention to a team's super star cornerback or just let the scheme take you where it's going to?
A: You pay attention to it. Like I said, those guys are playing some great football right now, both of those corners, even [Bradley] Roby when he comes in. That entire secondary, they're playing fast, playing physical, they're aggressive. We know that Coach Turner is going to put together a scheme that allows us to execute at a high level. Whether it's just taking what the defense gives me or taking one-on-one matchups. We're just going to go out there and execute.
Q: What has slowed Charles Johnson down this season?
A: We've been having some success running the football. Whenever we can do that, it makes the passing easier for us. We're going to have some opportunities to make some big plays, make some catches on the outside. Right now, the running game is working for us, Adrian [Peterson] is doing a great job and then this offense, each week it's going to be a different guy that steps up and makes plays for us. Those guys know that and we know that. We just approach each week with a different mindset.
Q: Where do you think the passing game is right now and where can it go?
A: We're only going to get better. Like I said, we've been running the football very well. Those guys have been doing a great job the past two weeks. I think I've only been sacked once. We're only going to continue to get better, whether it's in protection, getting the ball out and making plays on the outside.
Q: Do you think this will be your toughest road challenge so far?
A: It may be. We know that those guys play extremely well at home, I believe they were 8-1 last year, the only loss coming in the playoffs. Those guys, they're a tough crowd, tough defense, they're going to have a lot on their side.
Q: As an offense what can you do to counteract the speed the Broncos have on defense?
A: We just have to go out there and believe in ourselves and understand that we have to be fast and physical, also. We're going to try to run the football, throw the football and execute our offense and stay within ourselves.
Q: Can you pinpoint in what's happening early in games that may cause the passing game to struggle?
A: We just have to continue to work on starting fast. Starting fast as an offense, starting fast as a team.